20 Apr 2020 12:11 PM
  • Spain

Continuation of notes about the journey on Camino de Santiago , northern Spain (Camino del Norte), July 2017.

Day 8. Santillana del Mar – Oreña – Comillas (25 km) – A slow day

The distance for today according to the guidebook was 22 km. We relaxed a bit. Everything was without hurry: preparation and breakfast. Slowly we were leaving the city. The weather was getting better, the landscapes pleased, cafes by the side of the road were luring in to stay. Today we share our Way with two ladies from Austria. Alternately catch up and outrun one another. The villages along the Way are fairytale. Even the ruins entwined in ivy, sitting in the middle of green lawns invoke amazement. It goes without saying that inhabited villas do.

In the morning the sea was seen in the far. Closer toward lunch we came down to a beach in a town of Cóbreces. The sea has its own magic. Once you go for a swim, salty water washes the fatigue away. After the sea we were left with around 10 km to go. Today we decided in any case to have decent lunch, so we’re not super hungry at the place we stopped for the night. Oh! It’s not that easy when it comes to lunch. Lunch is only after 1 or 2 pm. We managed to find a restaurant that serves first course only in the small town of La Iglesia.


Hooray! Lunch!

Soup, that we chose in the menu wasn’t particularly good – liquid something with small noodles. But the second course, that was a “Mountain Stew” in English version, satisfied our anticipation of delicious Spanish food. As I think it wasn’t as much a stew, but a meat soup with different bangers and smoked pork ribs, a lot of kidney beans and spinach. As a side we had fresh bread, spicy peppers and a bottle of red wine (it’s not a custom here to serve a glass of wine). It’s a surprise we didn’t swallow our tongues. After we rolled out of the restaurant we set off to Comillas. It was a half hour walk away.


Oops…! No vacancies in albergue. The price for swimming and looking for lunch. We stay in the guesthouse not far. The only disadvantage of staying here – the price. In all the other – more comfort and facilities. Austrian friends occupied the room next to us, they turned up an hour later. Comillas is a city worth taking a look. A museum of architecture under the sky. There are buildings of Gaudí here. Generally Spanish towns are a heaven for esthete and my inner perfectionist is purring satisfied. But feet protest against sightseeing. Until today we walked 192 km, 139 to go. Preliminary itinerary shows 6 days. The equator is behind us…

Stay:  Pension La Aldea . The guesthouse (pension) in the very center of Comillas. €40 for a room for 3 people. Toilets and showers on the floor. Clean, cozy and noisy. The restaurant below us is producing a constant hum.

Day 9. Comillas – San Vicente de la Barquera – Serdio (21,5 km) – A walk in the rain

Nights in guesthouses make you relax. In the morning quiet turmoil begins, somebody wants to leave earlier, they get together, you hear the rustle of clothes, zips of sleeping bags and snaps of backpack clasps. People are trying not to be loud, but you vividly hear them in a quiet room. There’s none of that in the guesthouse. Our morning rest has dragged on, monotonous sound of rain lulled and invited to stay longer in warm bed. We didn’t hurry, nobody wanted to get out in the pouring down rain. Anomaly late start today – at 9.20.

We walked fast – practically without rest. Bad weather and desire to check into an albergue hurried us. We lingered only on a long ocean beach, absolutely magic in semi-transparent vail. One would want to walk infinitely by the solid, pressed sand and breathe in water dust from the ocean and the sea. Today ocean is out frequent companion – almost all the time it was seen nearby or on the horizon…

We met a German – Suzanne, who lives in Switzerland. She’s on the Way for two weeks now… Equally imperfect knowledge in English allowed us to chat and understand each other well. She ends her Camino in Gijón this year, same as us.

Together we made our way to the lost village of Serdio. Suzanne went to a guesthouse – she was very tired and wanted a nice rest. And we checked into a municipal albergue (amazing! but there were vacancies). Even more amazing is that we were in time to have lunch, nutritious and delicious.  “Oh! Experience, the son of painful errors…”

The most delightful thing at the end of each day is to take a shower and to change in clean comfortable clothes. Then while away the time before going to bed, and feel the blissful fatigue going through the body.

Stay: Albergue de peregrinos de Serdio . Municipal albergue. Cheap and ascetic. It costs €5 per bed (why is it so difficult to find cheap accommodation every day of the Way?!). Male and female bathrooms. Hot water through the boiler. So, slower people need to wait for another portion of water. Poorly equipped kitchen, only enough to boil water for tea. You can get food in the nearby bar. Here for the first time we saw the announcement, pinned above the lonely bed in the hallway “If you snore, this is your place to sleep”. Funny at first sight, but we remembered, that people snore sometime… And this could be a problem. We were lucky until now.


This beautiful street-art decorates the blank wall of albergue building

Day 10. Serdio – Unquera – Colombres – Pendueles (21,5 km) – One more day

Today I got a strange feeling, that is difficult to describe. Akin to emptiness. The body adapted to the load and even Ivan overcame today’s distance without effort. But there’s a strange thing, I’m as if tired of feeling new emotions.


In the middle of the day we came out to the coast. Not a gentle long beach, but rocky steep cliffs. The sea broke over the coastal rocks with roar and thunder. One wanted only silently stare at the dance of water without stopping. We had lunch right here on the rocky coast. We didn’t feel like playing a quest of “be in time for lunch”. A lot of French in albergue. They’re excessively impulsive and talkative. They’re having fun. We have a different attitude. Only a little time needed to accept new emotions, accept and release…

Stay: Albergue Turístico Casa Flor . Awful. All my negativity I express in the description of the next day. We do not recommend at all! It’s a double pity, that we had a couple options of overnight stay. We just didn’t have the information. Later we were showed a beautiful site with thorough information about options where to stay on the Way. Most of the links from this article point to it. In future we surely will have fuller information.

Day 11. Pendueles – Llanes – Celorio (21,7 km) – Along the sea

We left Pendueles and also the albergue “Casa Flor”, early in the morning and without regret. Quite possibly, it was the first albergue, which we didn’t like at all. Even though, we had to stay in a municipal (for symbolic €5 per bed) and albergue-donativos (where you decide what charge is appropriate based on personal circumstances). Here it wasn’t cheap (€15 per person), but it didn’t have soul or coziness. A feeling comes, that they do not just have a business (which is not bad after all), but they want to save as much as possible (which isn’t pleasant). The washing machine cost €3, but not per cycle, per person. The notes are all over the bathroom saying that it’s not allowed to wash clothes in the sinks or in the showers. But there’s no suitable place for that purpose. The showers are together with the toilets and there’s no latch on the door, and the partitions in the shower are transparent. There is a kitchen, but they didn’t let us to even make tea there. And the breakfast was so stingy, that decisively spoiled the impression about the hostel. Two packs of single portions of margarine (they didn’t care enough to buy butter), a portion of jam, toasted baguette, a half glass of juice, and tea-coffee with water heated up in the microwave. I do understand the difference between different kinds of hotels, and I am never too picky about the food, but places like these spoil the impression about the culture of hospitality. In the end this attitude will prove inadequate for business. Because people talk and the feeling toward the client isn’t sincere. If you’re ever in Pendueles, give Casa Flor a miss smiley

Our stretch today was exceptionally pleasant and picturesque. We were advancing far away from the noisy motorways, by the hills, through the groves and on the paths, over small bridges. In the morning we came onto a beautiful beach. And the remainder of the day we were looking at the precipitous coastline and the raging vastness of the ocean. We got through the 15 km to the town of Llanes almost without stops – the weather forecast promised rain after lunchtime. The wind was penetrating. There’s no feeling of the hot Spanish summer. It’s best suited for long walks.

But the rain caught us in Llanes. We had to put on more clothes and protect ourselves from moistness. This is the time when I praised myself for having packed warm clothes (before the hike we were afraid of the heat more). Just a kilometer away from the finish line we discovered unreal cliffs. The waves were crushing against them so loudly, it seemed like thunder. Rainy weather added more wild beauty to this place.

Today’s walk is a therapy after yesterday’s blues and not a very pleasant hotel. The sea heals all wounds and helps all troubles, all the more so petty mishaps.

Stay: Albergue Las Palmeras Playa de San Martín . Not good, but not bad. Albergue looks more like a guesthouse, separate rooms with regular beds, which is a plus. But no bed linen, sort of damp and uncomfortable, no place to wash or dry clothes. No kitchen too.  Wi-Fi doesn’t reach the rooms. It costs €15 per bed. They didn’t agree to give a child discount. But what a marvelous beach nearby!

Day 12. Celorio – Naves – Ribadesella – San Esteban (31 km) – When everybody was going to Ribadesella, but came to San Esteban

The weather forecast for today was pleasant – cloudless sky and warm temperatures. There was the resort Ribadesella before us. 24 km divided us from the beach, ocean waves and developed infrastructure of a big city. We started in good spirit and were walking optimistically. A mirage of the resort attracted and urged to come faster.

Camino Norte’s main advantage, because literally every day you go out to a new beach – the next one is better than the previous. After about an hour, after we left Celorio and its little satellites, we came to another stunning place. And despite it being morning, despite vigorous wind and roaring waves – we decided to swim. It’s rather difficult just to swim in its regular meaning. Waves didn’t scare with their height, but with strength and power. We were enjoying the water at the surf. Splashes and foam everywhere. To tell you the truth, it wasn’t very warm.

Having said goodbye to another heavenly place we continued further. In Naves we had tea and coffee with the chocolate we took out of the backpack. When leaving the city, we met a strongly built man about 50 years old. As usually happens he asked about Ivan’s age and praised a little pilgrim. Our speeds corresponded, so we walked together for a while. We noticed a lot of stripes, connected to the Way of Santiago, on his backpack. The conversation didn’t go well at first. Then, slowly, we started to ask him usual for the Way questions: “Where are we from?”, “Where do we plan to end it?”. We politely asked the same in return. He’s from Portugal. And he walks the Camino since the year 2004!!! Every year!!! We were left without words. He showed us his staff, wooden, knotty with marks about every completed Camino. As did we, on that day he was going to Ribadesella. Later we fell behind a little.

 For the most part today’s stretch was going through the countryside. Fields, pastures, cows, sheep, horses and other animals – that’s what we saw. Fairy-tale houses. No people around. It doesn’t seem right. There’s no shop or market. You can’t even buy bread. There’s no old lady along the road with a bucket of peaches or tomatoes, wanting to earn a couple extra euros for their European pension. Unexperienced traveler might starve. But bread hangs in the bags on the front doors of houses – fresh bread in Spain is delivered in such way, which is a basis of the ration.

Approaching Ribedesella we cheered up. Here comes the long-awaited bed, rest, satisfying dinner and tomatoes, so wanted during the day. But the arrows on the Way, which at first pointed toward the center, suddenly veered off and led us away from all we dreamed of since the morning. We realized it rather late, when we got hopelessly far from the center. Coming back is not efficient. The same mileage, but backwards. There we no vacancies in the albergue that we found. We were left with 2.3 km to the village of San Esteban, where there’s no beach, no waves, no restaurants, no shops, and no tomatoes…

We reached it, pouring water over ourselves. The day was very hot. It’s good that there are plenty of vacancies in the albergue. And the price is certainly appropriate – 6 euros per person. After us came people, with which we meet third night in a row. Out of nowhere appeared the Portuguese Camino-walker, couple hours later came the French we remember from earlier. Alcohol was galore and loud chatter continued till night, as usual. Shortly speaking, nobody got to Ribedesella  – it’s crowded there without us.

And, we were very happy to have dinner… Service in albergue smiley Local bar freshly cooked us everything we ordered. But still tough with the tomatoes smiley

Though, after 31 km stretch under the sun – not much needed for happiness. More than any other thing we learned how to enjoy the little. smiley

Stay: Albergue de peregrinos de San Esteban de Leces . A big municipal albergue for affordable price. Little kitchen and decent crockery, so you can cook a dinner for yourself if you want to. A cozy green patio. You can wash the clothes by hand. Here we became acquainted with a family from Czech Republic (translator’s note: we live in Slovakia, so we can talk to Czechs smiley) – two parents and three daughters aged 6 to 12. They’re accompanied by young husband and wife, the wife is pregnant and, obviously for a long time. Risky guys. And we were worried that we decided to go with a kid! Here we met Alex from Yaroslavl (translator’s note: it’s in Russia. We speak Russian smiley). He’s on Camino for the second time. It might just be, that if you try once – it’s for life.

Day 13. San Esteban – Colunga – Priesca (25 km) – O!!! Orlando…

All night long it rained monotonously outside and the situation didn’t change in the morning. Everybody played for time – were getting together long, had breakfast and generally weren’t to leave the cozy walls of the shelter. But you can make tea as long as you want – the time will come and you will step outside to set off on a daily journey…

Rain didn’t seem as bad as from the albergue’s window. And stopped in a short while. Although the currents of water of different intensity pursued us all day long. Water dust, rainfall, windy rain, sunny and dust again, rain and wind again … Wet, hot, cold, wet and hot again. It’s difficult to explain how in the rainy weather one can simultaneously be cold and hot. Wet on the outside from the rain, wet of sweat under the raincoat.

So, we walked and walked… Along the beaches and hills, tiny trails and big roads. Walked persistently.

Always we met yesterday’s Camino trekker. Firstly, he outran us, when we stopped at a beautiful beach, then we got in front when he was enjoying coffee. Then we met again, and again, and again.


A brief moment when the rain stopped – resting and drying

Once again, we found each other, when he and his companion stopped at a very nice and cozy place. We asked them if it was indeed an albergue. When we heard an affirmative answer, I decided that the that’s it for today. No juice to go farther, I had slight chills and a headache. Time to rest…

Albergue was simply fantastic!!! A complete antipode to the place, where they’re just making money. First thing – they want to give you shelter. To give a lot of comfort for little compensation. But this is also not the main thing.

There are certain moments when you feel, that everything comes together at one point. When you understand, that the most unimaginable wish can become a reality. And everything needed is just to let it happen, stop resisting, push away the opportunities, be in doubt. Just believe that miracles happen every day.

A day, when there were people not indifferent to simple desires of the tired in the road. And the travelers were infinitely grateful for care and shelter.

When the beautiful two-course dinner with wine happens just for a couple of euros… When even not knowing foreign language perfectly you’re in concert with a French, a Portuguese, a Pole, a Norwegian.

People are not that different – being physically tired, hunger, a need of hospitality, safety and understanding.

Why Orlando? That’s the name of our new Portuguese friend. Today we properly met each other, cooked and ate dinner, drank a lot of wine, had coffee and (although with difficulties) talked a lot. Because Orlando is not at all embarrassed, he talks to Spanish in Portuguese, with French a little French, to everybody else a little in English. Everything depends on him today – washing and drying, buying groceries and cooking dinner. He tirelessly calls at Ivan (with a long loud “I”), asks “are you OK?”, “you are strong boy!”, “you are the champion!”. He jokes with the hosting ladies, buys groceries off of them, gathers laundry to do from all tired and cold pilgrims, sends the French ladies to cook soup, demands pasta, buys wine, he is everywhere and he controls everything. Thanks to him we all sat at one table and felt like a small family and not just lonely travelers during harsh weather on Camino de Santiago.


Our “Internazionale”.

Stay: Albergue La Rectoral de Priesca . Exceptionally good! Everything was exceptionally good in this place: people, dinner, facilities and comfort. An amazingly clean cozy albergue with disposable bedlinen and fleece blankets. A washing machine and a drier at your service. You can pair up with someone and wash everything together. A very good kitchen-dining room. Groceries are available from the hostesses – they have an enormous assortment of everything. A company of 7 adults and one Camino-kid spent €2 per person for groceries. And so, we cooked a fresh vegetable crème-soup (a real treat after the rainy day), pasta with sauce and a fresh vegetables salad. The dinner was royal! After the field ration from the supermarket – this was a real feast! Price per night €12. We three stayed for €30. Hooray to hospitality and kindness of Camino!

Day 14. Priesca – Villaviciosa – Peón (26 km) – The day, that could be the last

Yesterday we didn’t make it to Sebrayo. Rainy weather, tiredness and unexpectedly found albergue with good company stopped us in about 4 kilometers from the planned point. The distance of 40 kilometers, that remained until Gijón didn’t seem possible for our group in one day.


The morning of the new day – we’re on the Way again.

We made the 12 km to Villaviciosa till 10 am. There are still albergues on the way out from the city, but there’s none farther on the way to Gijón. No accommodation possibilities at all. The place is a hole. But in the morning Maria (the French friend of Orlando’s) shared the information, that there’s a private albergue in a village of Peón. It’s not cheap, but still an option.

After Villaviciosa there was a turn from Camino del Norte to Camino Primitivo. There’s a pole on the Way with two shells-road signs. One is turned to Oviedo, the second one – to Gijón. We got to this significant place. We marked our passports with the attached stamp. We took pictures and set off further to Gijón. Orlando veered off to Oviedo.


After 20 km the way turned steeper. Later we read in the guidebook, that we gained 250 meters in 1.7 km. We came to the top of Alto de la Cruz. Gijón is visible from here on the coast. Once again, we enjoyed the thought of reaching it today. And once again rejected it.

It was much easier to walk downhill. The view is usual – grazing cattle, hills, flowers, houses… No people. No albergues, no hotels. A very deep hole. There’s a hole everywhere, if you walk long enough.


Traditional Barns in the Asturian country.

We came to the center of Peón – bar “Casa Pepino”. Things are only alive here. We called up the albergue. The host came to pick us up by car. Albergue is on the outskirts of the village. For the first time in 14 days we go by car. It feels good to travel without walking.

Albergue provokes mixed feelings. An old tavern – restaurant, packed with rarities. Quite colorful and unique, but very abandoned. Wooden furniture everywhere, framed family photos, laced napkins. At your grannie’s. The price is a bit too high, €20 per head. They don’t want to bargain. Although, dinner and breakfast included. This is a plus. Considering a place, we’re in.

Here we meet Maria. The four of us are the tenants of this tavern. Maria is infinitely pleasant. She’s speaking good English, without a characteristic French accent. She works as a teacher of painting in a small town. She’s around 50. Although, it’s difficult to determine the age. We all are now black tanned with the light network of lines.

We bide our time in the yard in the company of chickens and cats. Dinner is traditionally after 8 o’clock. The last evening on Camino. Not the worst…

Stay: Casa Capion . Found their web-page, but photos are not believable. Everything is much drearier now. But the host is the same in the picture. Said truthfully – don’t believe your eyes. Accommodation would be quite pleasant here, if everything was neat around. Rooms for two with bedlinen, pastoral countryside landscapes. A place with potential. Unfortunately, it’s not used fully.

Day 15. Peón – Gijón (16 km) – The Last day, the adventures of a carved chest

A morning in the countryside. Roosters crow. We are engrossed by our usual morning preparations. Today is our last stretch. But first, breakfast. Breakfast in Spain is never massive. Probably because of the late dinner. Usually, it’s toasts, butter and jam. Tea or coffee. Some cupcakes.

We are again taken by car to the same place we were picked up from. Honestly.

But one thing doesn’t leave me in peace. Yesterday, when I was hanging wet clean clothes, I saw a wooden carved chest in the corner of the yard. It’s obvious, that the thing has been abandoned. All in spiderwebs, in the place, where it gets rained on. But it’s beautiful… A very greedy person wakes up inside me and demands the chest. The plan was, of course, to bargain for the appropriate price and ask the hosts to mail to us. But having learned about our issue, the young host gave it to us without charge, decidedly refusing even a symbolic reward. It turns out to be a present. We must carry it with us.

So, having usually swung our packs on the backs, and Vadym a chest into his hands, we set off. Today we have the company of Maria. It wasn’t bad at first. But the chest turned heavier and more uncomfortable with every covered kilometer. And again, the path started climbing, in some ridiculous narrow pathways. The chest added an adventurous mood to our hike. Vadym looked like Indiana Jones with the ancient artifact, plowing through impassable jungle. Morally we supported him as we could, but to support the chest (it got very heavy by that time) was inevitably his job.


Our unexpected little souvenir from Spain

Maria laughed in good-natured fashion about our crazy idea. The locals we met on the way were obviously surprised by the strange piece of equipment. They hardly met pilgrims with such luggage in their lifetime.

The trial of the carved chest ended after 13 km from the start, when we finally got to the first post office in Gijón. Here we learned about the price of the parcel… But did we really have a choice? We couldn’t not send it. The chest became the part of our Camino, even if quite expensive. Maria suggested that we give it a name.

And then, a couple more kilometers of the Way and the pedometer halts. Gijón is an immense resort city. As usually happens, at first it baffled us, so used to the solitude and landscapes of the countryside.


The embankment of Gijón. The blue building on the right is the hotel Príncipe de Asturias, where we will spend the last night before going back home.

Looking for accommodation is a problem. The city is in the season’s peak, so many visitors. We settle in the guesthouse with Maria. We decided to spend the rest of the day together. You can see that she’s quite tired of being alone. Nevertheless, she plans to reach Santiago de Compostela.

Finally – the beach, the sun and so very long-awaited sea! We made it! It wasn’t easy, but less difficult, than we expected. Ivan attaboy! Mainly we were worried about monotonous walking from morning till night becoming boring very fast for a kid. Moreover, it’s quite hard physical activity. But our Long Walk was successful, and the time spent together was a priceless treasure found on Camino.


Stay: We slept in a guesthouse Hospedaje Londres. I didn’t look for its link, because it’s expensive and we didn’t like it very much. But the albergue for pilgrims was outside the city, far from the coast and the infrastructure, and we wanted to spend the last two days on the beach and switch from the “pilgrim” mode to “tourist” mode. The next day we changed the dislocation and moved to a good hotel right on the central embankment of Gijón. To allow yourself a little bit more comfort in the end of the Way was infinitely pleasant. The large advantage of the Hotel Príncipe de Asturias  were beautiful panorama windows, opening the views to the beach and the ocean waves.